We're not in Iraq to seize oil: US Defense Secretary James Mattis

The new Pentagon chief and US Secretary of Defence, James Mattis (C), arrives in the Iraqi capital Baghdad, on February 20, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Before arriving on an unannounced visit to Baghdad, US Defense Secretary James Mattis has said Americans are “not in Iraq to seize” its oil.  

His comments, made on Monday while traveling towards Iraq, appeared to be an attempt to distance him from the recent remarks by President Donald Trump regarding Iraq and its oil.

In a speech to CIA staff on January 21, Trump said about Iraq, "We should have kept the oil. But okay. Maybe you'll have another chance."

A few days later in an interview with ABC's David Muir, the president repeated the comments, "We should have taken the oil. You wouldn't have ISIS (Daesh) if we took the oil."

According to experts, stealing oil from civilians is a war crime, and a violation of international law.

Mattis, on his first trip to Iraq as the new US defense secretary, appeared to be ruling out any American plans to capture Iraqi oil.

"All of us in America have generally paid for our gas and oil all along and I'm sure that we will continue to do so in the future. We're not in Iraq to seize anyone's oil," Mattis, a retired four-star general, told reporters traveling with him.

The Pentagon chief said that he was heading to Iraq "because I need to get current on the situation there, the political situation, the enemy situation and the friendly situation."

In early 2003, the United States, backed by the UK, invaded Iraq under the pretext that the regime of Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. No such weapons, however, were ever found in Iraq.

More than one million Iraqis were killed as a result of the invasion, and subsequent occupation of the country, according to the California-based investigative organization Project Censored.

During his election campaign, Trump called the 2003 Iraq invasion “a big fat mistake,” and blamed the rise of Daesh (ISIL) terrorists in the Middle East on the policies of former US President George W. Bush and his successor, Barack Obama.

Republican presidential candidates (L-R) Jeb Bush, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Donald Trump participate in a CBS News GOP Debate February 13, 2016 at the Peace Center in Greenville, South Carolina. (Photo by AFP)

“George Bush made a mistake,” said during a CBS Republican primary debate in Greenville, South Carolina on February 13, 2016. “We all make mistakes. But that one was a beauty... They lied! They said there were weapons of mass destruction. And there were none.”

But in his more recent statements, Trump changed the tone regarding Iraq, arguing that the United States should have seized Iraqi oil in order to prevent Daesh from making money from oil sales.  

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